Vatican envoy deplores "illegal Israeli action"

In a statement referring to "illegal Israeli action" in Palestinian territories, a Holy See representative has told a United Nations emergency meeting that the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a cause of Middle East instability cannot be ignored.

Catholic Online reports that Archbishop Celestino Migliore's statement entitled "Illegal Israeli action in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian Territory" listed a "litany of symptoms" of a "deteriorating" situation in the Palestinian territories.

"Each time we hold an emergency meeting such as this, we recite the seemingly endless list of difficulties and differences separating Israelis and Palestinians, which make it all the more urgent for states to address the problem of the fundamental injustice at the heart of this question," Archbishop Migliore said.

"While regretting a new toll of death and condemning the spiral of violence caused by both military operations and terrorist attacks," the Vatican nuncio said that "these horrendous occurrences form part of a much larger issue, which, as we all know, has festered far too long in the region."

Since the Israeli incursion in Gaza began on 1 November, it has claimed the lives of an estimated 350 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, and four Israelis, three of them soldiers, a Reuters report says.

During an emergency session on Friday, the UN General Assembly called for an end to Israeli military operations in Gaza following the 8 November shelling that killed 19 civilians in the town of Beit Hanoun.

The meeting overwhelmingly passed a nonbinding resolution calling for immediate cessation of all acts of violence by both Palestinian and Israeli forces, and urged a UN probe of the shelling and an immediate Israeli troop pullout from Gaza.

The previous week, the US used its veto to halt a Security Council resolution by Qatar, the only Arab member of the council, that would have condemned Israel's actions.

Pointing to the Vatican's "closeness to the civilian populations suffering the consequences of recent violence" in the occupied Palestinian territories, the archbishop noted that people on both sides of the conflict are "forced to live under the horrible tensions of potential explosive acts of terror or military incursions that result in death, causalities and the destruction of infrastructure".

The international community, he suggested, has failed in its responsibility to bring the two governments to the negotiations table for "significant and substantive dialogue".

Peace is possible, the Archbishop stressed, but requires "a new and all-encompassing vision that will usher in concrete plans" of that peace.

Gunmen fire on new Catholic mayor of Ramallah

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reports that unidentified gunmen on Monday opened fire at the car of Ramallah Mayor Janet Mikhail while it was parked outside her office.

Mikhail, a Catholic, is the first woman to hold the post of Ramallah Mayor. She was headmistress of a girls' school in Ramallah for 20 years before retiring.

She was chosen as mayor in December 2005 by the newly elected 15-member city council.

The gunmen also opened fire at the municipality building and at the home of one of the mayor's senior aides. No one was hurt, but the mayor's car was hit by several bullets.

Eyewitnesses told The Jerusalem Post that a group of gunmen, some of them wearing masks, approached the municipality building and opened fire at the mayor's car and office from automatic rifles. The gunmen fled the scene before Palestinian Authority policemen arrived at the scene.

In response to the shootings, Mikhail called on the Palestinian Authority to form a commission of inquiry into the state of anarchy and lawlessness in Ramallah.

Photos: ISMC's photos

Vatican: Israeli-Palestinian conflict center of Mideast instability, action needed now (Catholic Online, 20/11/06)
Gunmen shoot at Ramallah mayor's car (Jerusalem Post, 20/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Internationalis
Caritas Jerusalem in the village of Aboud (Caritas International)
ISM-NC's photos

Benedict prays for end to Gaza bloodshed (CathNews, 6/11/06)
New Gaza settlement tenders concern Caritas Jerusalem (CathNews, 8/9/06)
Biblical lamentations as Gaza descends into disaster (CathNews, 7/12/06)
Vatican official commends Israel withdrawal from Gaza (CathNews 26/8/05)
Caritas Australia provides assistance to Caritas Jerusalem (CathNews 18/4/02)

21 Nov 2006